Intersections' addresses nationality

Posted by Max Siegelbaum

On March 1 the Committee on Intercultural & Global Understanding (CIGU), the Bias Response Group and the SGA Committee on Diversity Affairs held the penultimate installment of the Intersections panel series with a focus on nationality. About 60 members of the campus community attended the panel, which was held in Davis Auditorium.

Hosted by Director of Intercultural Studies and American Studies Professor Winston Grady-Willis, a panel of three professors and one student discussed ideas of the nation, nationalism and national identity. The three professors explored the idea of the nation in relation to their own academic studies.

Jordana Dym, an associate professor in the history department, discussed the process of building a "geo body" in the country where she conducts her research, Guatemala.

Dym described the different depictions cartographers and artists drew of Guatemala in the early 19th century and how they affect the public perception of the country, saying the process of turning the nation from a relatively isolated group of different indigenous groups and immigrants into a unified state is complex but necessary.

Maria Fernanda Lander, associate professor of Spanish, followed Dym with a presentation on the connection between nation, gender and drugs. She opened with a quote from the French author Ernest Renan who wrote a description of the nation as a "soul, a spiritual principle constituted by a rich legacy of memories." She also quoted Renan, saying that nationalism is "the will to perpetuate the value of that heritage."

Lander said these ideals relate to the war on drugs in Mexico and the U.S. in the 1930s. During this period, Lander said, the U.S. government used this conflict to stir up xenophobia against the Mexico by posing the idea that Mexicans are ruining the American nation with the steady influx of drugs.

Yasmin Hormozi '11 followed Professor Lander with a personal account of what the nation means to her and how nationalism pertains to her life. She said she feels a strong sense of national pride, but has also faced prejudices because of her physical appearance and Indian heritage. She also spoke about racial archetypes and how they have affected her identity.

She ended by saying that the campus should not forget the distinctly American privilege that we hold to be able to criticize the country we live in.

Pushkala Prasad, a business professor, ended the lecture with an account of how national identity can bleed into the business world.

She spoke about the purchase of the New York City area, Rockefeller Plaza by the Japanese Sony Corporation and the widespread panic that followed because many Americans believed that the Japanese were encroaching on the nation.

Prasad also said there is a distinct need to be vigilant of American corporations abroad and that often the perception of America is colored by the interactions between the local population and the corporation.

The session ended with a question-and-answer session, where several of the audience members shared their own viewpoints about the nation and their experiences with national identity.

The final intersections lecture will be held on April 7 with the eminent Princeton professor Cornell West as the keynote speaker.

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